The 7 things successful retailers have in common


I am in the final stages of wrapping a project for retail client. The outcome was surprising in many ways.

It was the first time we had worked together. His business can be classified as a mega retailer, albeit with one store only it is a significant business.

After some discussion, my proposal was accepted and I got to work.

On the day I had to report back for the first time, I had to inform the client that I was knock a substantial chunk from bill and complete the project early.

The reason is not because I don’t like making money.

The reason is because he is so good at making money out of his retail business, that I could add relatively value and couldn’t justify my full fee.

Whilst there are probably a dozen or so actions that we can recommend, the truth is that these are quite minor and is really just about the final 1%. (On a big business that is a meaningful number, but nevertheless not the impact I had anticipated I might make.)

I have compiled a list of ways in which this retailer is different to the ones I usually meet. (And I have met thousands and worked with hundreds.)

Of course the store functions well operationally. (Clean, well merchandised, well-trained staff.) Those all the things I identified last week – and it goes without saying.

The question is: why does this particular person succeed at making those fundamentals happen when so many others don’t? I sought to identify the reasons BEHIND the successes achieved – the root causes so to speak.

  1. He is an entrepreneur – not a small businessman. (I won’t labour the point here, but it is a different mentality altogether.)
  2. He has empowered his staff fully (trained them well of course) and they truly KNOW and OWN their numbers – right down to GP% for sub-categories.
  3. He is a ‘nice guy’ – in the positive, ethical sense – and gets along with staff. I am confident that I could charge him 100% of my quote and he would honour it – even if scope turned out to be somewhat less than anticipated.
  4. While he is on-site a lot and stays in touch with the minutiae; even then he focuses on working on the business. (He has built great systems that fully integrate across all channels, it is up to date and produces reliable numbers that allows him to keep his hand on the tiller AND to make strategic decisions.)
  5. He invests (substantially – more than $15K per annum) in his own personal development and growth.
  6. He is willing to constantly, proactively seek out professional expertise and respond to it appropriately – before it is too late in a constant push to ensure that the business is fine-tuned.
  7. He invests and reinvests constantly in the business and the premises.

You may well argue that in a successful multi-million dollar business he can ‘afford’ to do these things – but I also now know that this has not always been the case.

What successful retail entrepreneurs understand above all else is that you can’t start doing these things ONCE you become successful, but that you have to do them IN ORDER to become successful.

GANADOR: Customer Acquisition, Retention and Engagement

What can you learn from boiling water?

It may seem like a silly question, right?

I guess you know that it is at 212°F or 99.98°C (lets’ call it 100, OK – and we agree this is at sea level?)

It takes a certain amount of time and energy to get water to boil.

How hard is it (what does it take) to get water to or 99°C or 211°F?

Very close to the same amount of effort, energy and time than it does to get it to boiling point.

BUT – if it doesn’t boil it doesn’t boil.

If it does not boil it does change. You have warm water, not boiling water.

It won’t become steam.

It does not transform.

All that effort and energy for nothing.

It is the same for your business. It may only need another 1 degree increase in temperature to be transformed.

Just one.


(HT to Wayne Mullins for the idea of this post.)

Beware the force of entropy

In to 1865, Rudolf Clausius coined the term "entropy" and stated that the entropy of the universe tends to a maximum. This idea is now known as the second law of thermodynamics and a measure of the "disorder" of the physical system.

Consider the behaviour of gas in a closed box. If you start with all the gas molecules in a corner of the box, the gas molecules will fill the box, increasing the entropy (tending to ‘chaos’ or disorder.)

Interestingly it never goes the other way: if the gas molecules fill the box, we will never see them spontaneously collect into one corner. (This one-way behaviour of matter is called the "arrow of time and is related to notion of ‘the arrow of time’ which I wrote about here.)

This is not just a phenomenon and it is not just a theory – this is one of the LAWS of the universe. (If you are interested in that sort of thing, you will know that this Law is not reconcilable with the idea of the spontaneous creation of the universe.)

Since the Second Law of Thermodynamics (systems tend towards chaos) is a universal law, then it also applies to all systems – including the system of your company.

As organisations grow (older and bigger) the natural law is that it will tend to towards disorder (entropy).

General observation of organisations and their natural lifecycles would tend to support that.

Of course your survival and your prosperity therefore depends on how well you can delay (fight) that natural tendency.

The tools to achieve this are:

  • Focus
  • Commitment
  • Discipline
  • Systems

Passion, energy, motivation et al may be the common prescription by ‘success gurus’, but the reality seems to be more mundane than that. If you searched online for ‘why following your passion is bad advice’, and you will find several arguments for and against.

In fact, MOTIVATION refers to internal (emotive) states whereas PASSION AND ENERGY reflect actions (behaviours). Emotions and feelings wax and wane, whereas action is something that can happen independently from emotions. Any entrepreneur will be able to relate stories of how they rocked up for work despite feeling miserable.

The only way to postpone entropy is to work at it. NO matter how you feel.



Something you can learn from Chumpy Pullin and his Sochi adventure


Let’s face it there are no rags to riches stories in winter sports. There is no kid from the Bronx that made it to the NBA. There is no Mexican street kid who goes on to become the world heavyweight boxing champion.

These sportspeople are typically people of privilege. Living in cold climates takes money. Living in hot climates and visiting the snow regularly takes money.

I know this because I grew up poor and skiing holidays were never on the radar.

My son loves snowboarding and het gets a season pass every year. So we watch the Sochi broadcast. And I find myself waiting up to see how Chumpy goes.

SO, why do I care about Chumpy Pullin and his Sochi dreams? He has his own website, He is healthy and attractive has a beautiful girlfriend – presumably a bit of cash and a lifestyle to match.



Why do I care about a person of privilege notching up yet another privilege?

The answer is very simple: LIKABILITY

I have written about how one becomes liked. It is CORE to the successful sales process. People will overlook all kinds of other issues if you are likable.

Alex (Chumpy) comes across like a nice guy – not a spoilt rich kid. I don’t know what he is really like, but the impression he gives is one of likability and for that reason I am prepared to be interested in his fortunes and hi successes and failures.

This is an attribute worth emulating by all people who are striving for success. It may sound simplistic, but trust me if I say there is good neuroscience behind this phenomenon.

And the best news is that it can be learned.

The emergent start-up culture has unintended consequences


Over at SVBTLE they have now allowed the plebs in. And I signed up. This is my first post. I can't say I will be writing a LOT over there, but I really like the look and feel of the site.


This is cross-posted from there:

The new dogma for an entrepreneurial start-up is:

  • get it up quickly
  • close enough is good enough
  • test
  • feedback
  • iterate
  • pivot, or - prove the concept

(Even VC is going that way - ala 500 Startups)

Is this really how entrepreneurship should work? Just because it can?

Most writing about start-ups references the Valley and equivalent places where the focus is on tech- and web start-ups. Of course these are not the only types of start-up.

It seems as if the philosophy that underpins the 'do the quick and dirty and figure out as you go along' works well in the digital space - because it can be done without great time penalty.

There are two problems with this.

1. It does not work for all types of start-up. E.g. in the B2B space it could spell disaster. Or imagine if a hardware start-up, selling say smoke detectors, decided to suck-and-see?

2. The UNINTENDED consequences of this approach is not (the desired) creation of a culture of rapid innovation, but rather one where risk is not considered and thoughtful planning and great execution are sacrificed at the alter of expediency.

Just because it works - or has worked - for so many of the current crop of start-ups, does not mean it is the right thing. If that is the way they all do it then cause (suck-and-see) and effect (success) do not necessarily follow because there is nothing to compare it too.

Hunting start-up success with a shotgun is one approach. I am just not sure if it is the one I prefer.

CLICK ON THE GEARS to help us set something in ,motion. 

CLICK ON THE GEARS to help us set something in ,motion. 

80% of success is about this


When you are a representative with something to sell to another person who is representing an organisation you are engaged in B2B sales. Whilst both parties are people (allegedly) the buyer is not a consumer. The psychology of the process may have some similarities but the processes and the environments are very different.

Unlike with Retail Selling (to the consumer) I don’t have any particular qualifications in this space, but I do have the experience of doing it. And being who I am, I constantly learn by following other pundits in this space and in that process I discovered some interesting statistics.

We are familiar with the notion a funnel, so I have created this graphic to illustrate funnelmental (geddit?) tension that exists between the behaviours of sales people and the behaviours of the buyers.

Perseverance Stats.PNG

The statistics are quite rubbery – in fact I have no doubt they are wrong. I cannot trace an original source – just people quoting people who quote people. However I firmly believe the general principle conveyed in these numbers holds true.

It really is nothing more than the Pareto Principle: That is, 80% of the sales come to the 20% who persevere. (The quoted statistics would suggest it is more like 95:5)

Breaking this down like this illustrates the point dramatically. Now you, as a representative, can ask yourself specifically how many follow-ups you execute?

I too am guilty of quitting after a couple initial attempts. I fall back on the blog to ‘stay in touch’. But that is an excuse because I know the blog is just a grain of sand on the internet beach.

Entrepreneur magazine has an article on how Jerry Seinfeld manages to produce so much, high quality comedy consistently. They relate the story of the advice Seinfeld gave to an aspiring comedian:

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.

"After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain."

You'll notice that Seinfeld didn't say a single thing about results.

It didn't matter if he was motivated or not. It didn't matter if he was writing great jokes or not. It didn't matter if what he was working on would ever make it into a show. All that mattered was "not breaking the chain."

And that's one of the simple secrets behind Seinfeld's remarkable productivity and consistency. For years, the comedian simply focused on "not breaking the chain."

What is your excuse?

We are entering the season of Gift Fairs – so there will be a lot of B2B selling happening. A past business partner started an export business (gifts to the USA) and it took them four years of showing at the shows before they got a meaningful order. You may not do business the first time, but who knows what will happen if you stick to it?

This is the message of persistence – not about being a nuisance.

Not every person is a prospect, but if the representative has made an honest and accurate assessment of the buyer’s needs and that buyer (i.e. the retailer) is a true prospect, both parties will gain from the representative being persistent.

That consistency creates trust – which is the bedrock of a relationship.

Eighty percent of success is showing up.

Woody Allen

Have Fun


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Why you are screwed and don't even know it



We all went to school. Some of us may have learned more than others, some of us may have been in different types of schools, but essentially we all went through the same (or practically similar) educational system.

This system shaped what you do and believe today and your success today is influenced very much by those foundational years in school.

This image is taken of an actual public school in NSW. It is not necessary to be more specific, but images like that abound. Can you remember if words like these were used ‘as a charter’ at your school?

It would have been something an ambitious principle dreamt up and tried to shape the culture of the school accordingly.

If I as a parent saw this at a school where I may have had plans to take my kids, I would have worked very hard to get them into a different school.

If you look at those words what do you see?

Do you think I am nuts? What kind of parent would not want to have their kids adopt that charter as their value system?

I, for one, would not.

Read these insights from John Gatto, about the American educational system.

Schools intend “to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.”

And he quotes H.L. Mencken on the aim of American education: “The aim… is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.”

When I read those four words on the wall of that public school, I translate them to one idea: CONFORMITY.

Those words are not there to encourage kids to try things; they don’t exhort them to aim high or not to fear anything. There is no excitement, challenge or sense of purpose.

Those four words are there to make the school easier to govern: responsibility, respect, co-operation and safety.

Those four words are about the teachers, not about the kids.

Maybe you were taught by teachers at a school like that. Mr Chips exist in real life and some of you may have had one of those, but I guess that would the minority.

This post is not about the educational system in this country, though it is thoroughly stuffed, but is about you and your business.

  • These are the question you should ponder and answer for yourself because it is influencing how you do business the way you do:
  • What was the lasting impact of those ‘values’ you were taught to put above all else?
  • Do those beliefs you now hold as consequence empower you or limit you?
  • What is the charter of your existing business?
  • What is the value set by which you govern? Is it about you or is about the customers and employees?
  • Do you understand the impact of these seemingly innocuous decisions?

If you have been battling to understand why your employees are not more motivated, and why your customers are not more loyal, it usually comes back to the value system that is in place. We put it in place without knowing that we do, and if we do, we often don’t fully appreciate the consequences (intended and otherwise)

How are the values that you are trying to put place influenced by those values of compliance and conformity that were drilled into you as a child?

USP. Niche. Segment. Point of Difference. Cut-through. Innovation. ALL THESE IDEAS require you to be original and think differently.

This is the million dollar question: Can you?

Or more pertinently:

With an educational system that values conformity and obedience above all, have you been equipped with the attitude to embrace change and enjoy challenges, or do you look to the government (or some authority figure or institution to fix things and control the environment for you the way they did in school?

Confronting, I know; but well worth a few moments of your time to as you embark on a new year with new challenges.

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Which Wolf Are You Feeding?


There’s a Native American tale about an old man who was telling his grandson a story about two wolves.


The old man said, “There’s a fight between two wolves. One is an evil wolf, filled with anger, resentment, greed, sadness, rage, envy, pride, ego, vanity, and superiority. The other is a good wolf, filled with peace, light, kindness, generosity, love, compassion, humility, benevolence, grace, hope, compassion, and faith.”

“Which of the wolves will win the fight, grandfather?” asked the boy.

The old man paused, considering the boy, then said, “Whichever one you feed.”


I have added the text to video animation below.

Santa brought a gift for retailers, but not what you think


An interviewer asked a small child – a little girl of about 7 or 8 – how Santa managed to get all the presents delivered in one night.


Without a second thought, she lisped through her missing teeth ‘he useth hith magic powerth to time travel’.

As an adult, you realise that is ridiculous of course – and you can laugh at her answer. To her though, it is completely real.

She encountered a problem of logic. Her young mind is astute enough to realise that the world is a big place and getting around on one night was going to be difficult.

So, she rationalised. Maybe a parent helped her along by giving her the ‘solution’. Maybe she connected the dots by watching too many cartoons.

But she needed a reason and she manufactured one.

Retailers do the same thing. (We all do of course, it is human.)

  • We believe (in) certain things and then we seek justification for those beliefs.
  • We believe things about how customer s behave
  • We believe things about how employees should be treated
  • We believe things about the type of promotions that work and why they work.
  • We believe things about how products should be priced
  • We believe things about how the future will play out
  • We believe that people are a certain way
  • We believe retail success is achieved a certain way.

And we have reasons for these beliefs. And they are rational and make sense to us.

We forget that we have actively filtered out any contradicting evidence and only internalised the evidence that was congruent with our beliefs.

Just like the little girl who believes in Santa.

But we think because we are adults, we don’t believe things that are wrong. Obviously that would be irrational. We forget though that we only use selected facts to substantiate what we believe.

We all want to believe in Christmas - or whatever it is that you want to believe. And we have the facts to back it up.

Somewhere I can just hear God laughing.

Take what you want, but...



It is one of my least favourite things on Twitter and it is a major reason why I quit Facebook. There is such a plethora of quotes and ecards and ‘words of wisdom’ that have been tarted up with an image and then it is posted and re-posted endlessly for its pseudo-intellectual haught that any sane person would want throw up. Then again, judging by its popularity, maybe I am the odd one out.

It is not sentiment or the action that bothers me, it is the sheer mindlessness that gets my goat. People with no life and too much time on their hands google famous quotes by “fill in the blank” and then create an image for that.

Simply quoting other people – randomly – to me shows lack of original thought. If you are telling a story or there is context and you want to lean on the shoulder of some wise person to illuminate your story, I am happy for you to do so.

Having said that, I would like to share three insights with you. They are not mine and they are therefore not original, but it’s not your everyday Oscar Wilde or Churchillian barb of wisdom.

All three are worth pondering about. And I promise you there is more to each one than you would get from a first, casual reading. Really ponder them – all three insights are really powerful.


Quote #1: This is my all-time favourite life lesson


Quote #2: This is the most powerful insight about success you are likely to come across.


Quote #3: And the following is usually attributed to a (Spanish or maybe originally Persian Proverb) and I discovered recently in a book of fiction.  


"Take what you want and pay for it, says God.”

(Toma lo que quieras y paga por ello, dice Dios.)


It struck me powerfully because the sub-text is the cornerstone of my educational philosophy. There is a sentiment contained in that insight that is sadly missing in today’s world – but I will let you think about that.

I don’t normally ask for comments – but I would be happy to get your own favourite because three is a very short list. Be original if you can, but equally if ylu want to share something unusual and extremely insightful, please share via email, voicemail (see bar on the site) or via comments or even social media.

BTW, here are a 101 original observations about marketing. (Download the PDF here for free – scroll to the bottom of the page.)

Swimming against the tide like the Dixie Chicks

Natalie Maines is the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks (DC). They were hot in 2003. Hot as in topping the Country Music charts.

Image: Rolling Stone

Image: Rolling Stone

In 2003 George Bush was riding high in the popular opinion polls having declared war on terror and the whole Iraq/Iran thing was happening. A vengeful American public was high on patriotism.

At one of the DC concerts Natalie spoke out against GWB. Her exact words to her London audience at the time were:

“Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” 

For her trouble, most C&W radio stations blacklisted them and consequently destroyed the band and their livelihood.

Entertainers often have things to say about society. (One can argue that art is one such an expression.) Sinead O’Conner attacking the Pope, for instance.

And commentators have done a lot worse. Ted Nugent for instance compared Obama to Hitler. Chris Brown physically abused his wife. The list is very long.

The strange thing here is that although what Nugent said is clearly much more vicious and personal, he suffered no backlash. Hank Williams echoed his sentiments and although he was dumped from ESPN, no radio station blacklisted him, like they did the DC.

The Dixie Chicks simply expressed an opinion that, at that time, wasn’t popular. The supreme irony is that public opinion has since swung completely and the vast majority of Americans dismissed George Bush’s presidency as, to put it mildly, a failure. His high opinion polls tanked from historic highs to historic lows.

One could argue that the public (eventually) agreed with Natalie Maines.

They did not forgive her and they did not rectify the damage they caused. The DC are still blacklisted.

We shrug our shoulders and say, c’est la’vie. They swam against the tide and paid the price. There is no justice in the world.

But I can’t help but wonder. Why is it that certain causes grab the attention of people? I am thinking particularly at the most common form of crowds and communities and that is the Social Media Mobs. The crack-smoking mayor (Rob Ford, Toronto) and the New York Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner for ‘sexting’ are pursued and ridiculed for breaching the community’s expectations of decency.

But they do nothing when radio stations- against the general community views - destroy people’s lives unilaterally and deprive them of the opportunity to express their views simply because they are different.

Social media is ruled by mob mentality. There is really no rhyme or reason other than whatever is popular at the time, for a cause to be embraced and for a cause to be ignored.

You are probably reading this on some form of social media or at least it may have led you to this post. This is not a personal accusation. Individuals can act rationally and I am sure you do too. It is when we get caught up in a mob that things change. It is no consolation for the poor sucker caught in it that they might be ‘right’. To the mob it does not matter.

It is so sad that this must be one of the unintended consequences of social media.

Whatever you believe, it is wrong

Or at least half the world will say it is.

Except for ice cream; everyone loves that. (Even the lactose intolerant who can’t have it).

But I digress.


The fact is that all the things you believe are either a matter of opinion or a matter of fact. Opinions are at best a 50/50 proposition.


And if the arc of scientific development continues as it has over centuries, most of what you hold true today will eventually be disproven.

That puts your beliefs and even your ‘experience’ on paper thin foundations.

Even when we know we don’t know, we tend to kid ourselves. This piece on individual and pluralistic ignorance is a great read, and Shane Parrish concludes:

Information is coming to us with greater velocity and magnitude. “I don’t know” might be the most powerful admission you can make in the internet era.

I have a practical suggestion for you to challenge convention.

Why don’t you play a version of that old kid’s game and make today ‘Opposite Day’?

Start by taking a different route to work going through different opening procedures (even if you ‘know’ the usual way is the most efficient.) Approach customers differently. Build different displays. Put your popular products where you normally have your unpopular products.

Who knows, you may just discover a new truth which is the opposite of your old truth.

© 2014 Ganador Management Solutions (Pty) Ltd PO Box 243 Kiama, NSW, 2533 Australia Tel: (+61)2-4237 7168